Nix Comics At SPX


Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Baum
I went to the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda Maryland this weekend.  It was my first time at the largest such convention aimed at indie comix folks  and it was a heady enough experience that only now after a couple nights of solid sleep-recovery am I able to arrange my thoughts about it in any sort of intelligible way.

SPX was really hyped to me by my peers and the veterans who have taken on a mentor-type relationship.  I was told that I would sell a ton of books, meet a ton of people and walk away inspired to hit the drawing board with renewed vigor.  (Not necessarily in that order.) 

I’m always skeptical of claims like that about conventions and shows; it’s a trade show after all.  In any business, trade Shows are usually great parties and poor business choices.  Travel, accommodations and booths are too expensive make it possible to crack a profit at the show for anybody but the premier attendees.  Contacts and plans made usually need to be filtered taken with a grain of salt as they are made with the help of alcoholic conversation-lubrication.

So who was being too cynical? Were my peers right?  

How fast was the cash register ringing?

I was right not to trust the claims of incredible sales.  I barely cracked $100.  About half of what I did at MOCCA earlier in the year and the same as I can generally make at a good local event here in Columbus without the massive overhead of an out of town trip.  There were some other (veteran) exhibitors who seemed to feel that sales were down from previous years.  Some blamed the increase in numbers of exhibitors without an increase in attendance. Others blamed the traffic patterns and ballroom set up. 

Me?  Beyond the fact that I think sales at events is always a crap shoot, I’m chalking my low total up to being a noob.  Can’t expect to come into a big room of peers and expect to wow the crowd first time out.  If I go back next year, sales will be better.   Like anything else in indie comix, it’s a slow build and if you want to succeed you have to keep plugging.

Did I make friends and influence people?

Promises of meeting people turned out to be true.  This is super surprising to me.  I had figured that I wouldn’t meet a lot of folks because my tolerance for carousing is so low.  The main way to meet folks at any trade show, including SPX is to spend time in bar lounge sucking down $10 drinks until someone invites you to a room-party.  I know it’s the tried and true method and I really wish that I hadn’t burned myself out of bar and drinking culture in the 90s.   I practically pickled myself back in the day and just can’t do that type of thing anymore.  (I know.  I’m a square.  ‘sokay, Roger Miller told me that squares make the world go around.  In Roger Miller I trust.) 

But despite my tea-totaling wallflower ways, I met a lot of cool people.  I was particularly fortunate to be tabling next to Pete Friedrich of Psycho Comics fame.  A real cool guy with thirty or so years of insight to share.    Happy accidents of con geography aside, folks on the floor were busy working their booths, but nearly everybody had time to talk to the new kid on the block.  It would be premature to call anyone I met a “contact,” as that type of familiar relationship builds over time, but a lot of cool people who seem interested in building that familiarity.

Back to the Drawing Board?

The only promised that was made to me by SPX boosters that I wasn’t skeptical of was that I would come away from the show eager to get working on new projects.  Creativity breeds creativity.  The double edged sword of that is that with Independents Day, the CCAD Mix Symposium and APE on the immediate horizon, it’ll probably be at least a month before I can seriously dig into some creative work.  It’s a drag being a one man show, sometimes. 

Funny and Cool Anecdotes

The Atomic Books Road Trip That Wasn’t:
The plan for Friday was to meet up with James, Katie and the Joel Jackson family at the hotel and drive up to Baltimore for the event at Atomic Books.  I really wanted to make it out there since they are one of the few stores that picked up early issues of Nix when I was being distributed through Ubiquity magazines.  To facilitate meeting up I asked James for his cell number so I could text him when I got in to Bethesda.  Great plan except James gave me the wrong number.  I ended up texting some teenage girl, asking her to meet me at the hotel bar.  So, if I disappear from the scene for a while it’s probably because an angry father beat or Mann Act violations.

Dissing The Diamond Rep:
At one point a fella stopped and took a real good look at the version of De-Luxe Nix Western Comics #1 edition with the record and custom cut 45 adapter.  He was very complimentary about the Nix Comics product line in general and the packaging with a record in general.  He told he that he thought that I had a brand that could possibly sell well in comic shops, which prompted some typical anti-diamond response from me.  I don’t even remember exactly what I said because the man’s wife started cracking up on the spot. 

“Show him your card, Jim!”

Jim Fallone, Diamond Comics Purchasing Director, Merchandise.

Jim took it in stride and we talked a little more about distribution ups and downs.  I didn’t agree with him on many points, but wasn’t in the mood to argue with him as he was a good sport about whatever it was I said to get the conversation rolling.

“Meeting” Josh Bayer:
Before I left, Derf made a point of emailing me and telling me to go meet Box Brown and Josh Bayer at the Retrofit Comics table.  He added that Josh was from the Columbus area.  Turns out, I knew Josh…  Just not in terms of comics.  We had a good mutual friend named Tracie back in the 90s

My Columbus Comics Newspaper:
Somewhere along the line I made the mistake of saying that I had fond memories of Hoot Magazine would like to start a local comic strip intensive newspaper here in Columbus.  Jeff Smith (shortly after having introduced me to somebody in super flattering fashion as “the spirit of Columbus Comics”) told me that I should go ahead and do it.  Seemed like a directive. 

Somehow the guys who are part of the DC Conspiracy collective, who put out their own comic newspaper “Magic Bullet” got wind of the idea and one by one came by and insisted that I needed to start Columbus’s own.

I guess now I have that I’ve mouthed off, I need to put some serious thought into it.

This Nerd Fulfilled:
Unlike a lot of folks, I didn’t show up with a stack of books that I wanted autographed by my indie comix heroes.  I just don’t generally groove on the signed book thing unless it’s from a friend as opposed to an icon.  But I do like autographed record sleeves, and I knew that Peter Bagge was a featured guest, so I packed up my copy of The Brood’s “Knock on Your Door” 45 with the intent of getting him to autograph it.  Not only did he sign that record, but he had a copy the Action Suits 4-Track mind 45 for sale which he also signed for me. 

Pretty cool, right?  It gets better… Not long after that, Peter came around to my table and bought a co


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